Do you remember when you were younger and you wanted to know something? Did you head straight to your parents? As a teenager, did you head straight to your friends? Perhaps as you matured, you expected that your teachers or a book might have all the answers to your burning questions. The days of looking up information in an encyclopedia are all but gone, and today the internet would claim to be full of answers from all of the experts. Just google “ask the experts”, and plenty of advisors are waiting to counsel you on health matters, legal matters, foreign affairs, or dozens of other topics. Certainly, they will all provide expert advice, right?
In the world of religion, it is expected that the pastors and preachers and spiritual leaders will be the experts. The pope is bound to have all the answers for the Catholics, and Billy Graham was trusted as an expert for the evangelicals. On a weekly basis, members of a congregation expect that their pastor will be an expert on the Word, prayer, how to lead a Spirit-filled life, how to manage wayward sons and daughters, how to build a lasting marriage, and how to encourage senior adults. The list does not even begin to stop there! How is it humanly possible for one man or woman to be an expert on all things Christian?
Obviously, the foundation on which one bases his/her expert opinion is the key to the stability of the counsel given. Assuming that the Word of God is the basis for counsel and that the Holy Spirit has been asked to speak into any given situation, one might still wonder why the experts don’t always agree! Yet, many Christians today give a lot of value to the words that come out of the mouths of their spiritual leaders.
In the world of missions, there is a growing paradigm shift so that two camps are quickly developing. Which camp has the expert opinion? There is a model of missions where everything is missions, and one must simply do good deeds for the sake of Christ and he/she is accomplishing a purpose in missions. On the other hand, there is growing popularity for a very opposite paradigm that would say that global missions must be the center of the church’s strategy for all its ministries, local and global missions must be taking place simultaneously, and the church must be sending workers from its own congregation to complete the unfinished task of reaching the lost in the hard-to-reach places. There is a plethora of books, seminars, conferences, and professionals who are actively teaching and promoting this new model. Will the population accept them as experts?
One global ministries pastor from a very large church in Pennsylvania would be seen by most as an expert. Over 30 years of experience in missions ministries in a local church combined with being an author of books and curriculum are all credentials that lend themselves to making a valid claim that Steve Beirn is a missions expert. Beirn would challenge churches with this simple question: “If every church in the world modeled their missions efforts after your church’s missions ministry, would the Great Commission be fulfilled?” Now that is just what an expert does—turns the question back to you so that you can evaluate, reflect, assess, and discern just whether or not you have an issue and then consider ways to move forward!
Steve Beirn’s church, Calvary Church, is part of the camp of missions thinkers who would say that not everything done in the name of Jesus is missions. Not every church is doing missions in a way that will fulfill the Great Commission. Many others are in this camp as well. Just check out the book “When Everything is Missions” by Denny Spitters and Matthew Ellison, and you will see that perhaps this camp has figured some of it out. Read David Horner’s book “When Missions Shapes the Mission” if you are not yet convinced! Ask some of the denominational leaders from various denominations or some of the agency leaders from various missions agencies about their initiatives to focus on the hard places and to change sending practices to reach those who are unreached.
The question that remains is, “Who are your experts?” After looking to Scripture to develop your missions models and strategies, who is advising you in best practices and new ways of thinking? Will you consider evaluating your church’s missions ministry for its effectiveness and alignment with the Great Commission?
Here is one way to get started today: Ask the experts!
Kirsten McClain serves as Assistant to the Executive Director for Propempo International. She has been serving churches and mission agencies for the last 20 years. She has a heart to see the church realize her potential in missions and is driven to be a mobilizer to this end. She lives in Georgia with her husband and three children, and she is ready to direct pastors to the various resources that Propempo uses to come alongside churches so that they can do missions well. [email protected]